Desert Of Unknown

In the night things go bump. For some, this is a nightmare and for others, this lends to the shelter of midnight. A small town in what we now know and call New Mexico in the year 1883 has no idea they are in the Upside Down and the creatures that lurk there are never nice. 

Winston Leaf had set his sights on the far edges of No Man’s Land for the sheer joy of adventure and gold. He had steel eyes and a rough chin. He wasn’t known anywhere and that was the way he liked it. He wasn’t a bounty hunter but he certainly seemed the type. His trusted steed Murder kept him moving through the country to his desired destinations. Murder was an Appaloosa that Winston had broken himself. He got the name Murder because of a particular look he always had, a very deep stare.

The landscape became drier and drier as he made his way across No Man’s Land. He had been hearing of some gold mining town that made any schmuck rich. All they had to do was go there. Of course, these stories were always told with a grain of salt until a few people came back from the town with a little bit of gold. Winston had stopped by a saloon that was about half a day’s ride to the storied town. These two disheveled young men came into the saloon and said they would never go back to that town in a million years. Winston asked them why, he only asked why because it seemed a little off that someone would go through all the trouble of travel and get guaranteed gold just to say they would never go back. “There was some group of people that would stay out in the woods on the southern end of the town. They had some sort of ritual they’d do to get this creature to come out at night. We saw a young child ripped apart. The Navajo told us that they moved farther north than they would usually travel because some white folks had brought evil with them.” Winston looked off to the fields and tried to wrap around this idea, picking through it for the truth. In his mind, these guys were just trying to keep people from going out there and getting their share of the gold. 

Winston pulled one of the guys into an ally and put a knife to his throat, “So where’s the best spot then? I know you must have found a great spot or you wouldn’t have fibbed that nonsense earlier.” The man was jostled and scared out of his mind but he answered “There isn’t any spot we just wanted to get out of there so we wouldn’t die.” Winston stared into his face “well where did you hide the huge nuggets then, there is no way you guys came all the way back here without having a stash somewhere along the way.” The man just kept saying there was a creature and that they only had the little bit they found. Winston threw him to the ground and asked “who else knows about this creature and how can I find it?” They gave Winston a very basic idea but explained that the Navajo in the northern part would be able to explain everything better. Winston got the idea that if he killed the creature he’d be able to make more money showing it off to people and probably get his name etched into history.

He rode to the town and had two things on his mind “Kill that fucking creature! Get back to New York and make more money than we could ever know what to do with.” 

The town was bare and only had a small saloon and a massive hotel. Winston could see the trail the Navajo made leaving the town. There was a mark on one of the graves he passed by but he didn’t know what it meant. He went to the saloon to see what kind of information he could get and see if the story was real or not. The bartender asked why he wanted to know about some creature when there was a gold mine in town. Winston said nothing and just stared into the man’s face. Winston was pointed towards the northern trail the Navajo made and told that they would have the information he wanted. 

That trail was short and sweet but the tribe had left and only the remains of a few animals were left. It was beginning to go dark and nightfall was when he had heard this creature comes out. Even without any real knowledge of what it looked like he went to the areas that he heard it was seen last. 

It was so dark in these woods that Winston still couldn’t see much while having a lantern he could barely see. Winston began to hear noises in the dark, something that sounded like breathing. He pulled his Colt from its holster. The breathing got closer and closer, then everything went quiet. Unsure of what was going to happen Winston knelt and waited. He waited for two hours and since he wasn’t hearing anything else he left the area. Getting close to where  Murder was he heard chanting in the woods, turned, and went back to investigate. The chanting was a group of people he recognized as the bankers and the local sheriff. Winston was twenty feet from them and the light of the fire they were chanting around noticing they were wearing robes and masks. They were performing a ritual that sounded like something the Navajo would have performed but there was something different about it. It seemed as though they were provoking whatever this creature was to come out. Winston thought to himself “these people must be insane. Why would you provoke a beast from the night?” 

Winston left the woods and went back to Murder who was standing in a different spot than he was left in. He seemed to be frightened by something but Winston couldn’t tell what it was. Winston turned and the creature was standing there almost as if it was sizing the two of them up. Winston whipped out his Colt and pointed it towards the creature, the creature jetted off towards the chanters. He thought he should follow it but he heard screaming and a mangling sound. He jumped onto Murder and road back towards town.

He went back to town just as the sun was coming up. Winston wanted to know everything the locals did about this creature. He went to the Chief in the northern part of town for answers, he spoke to him in almost perfect English “what you are looking for is a terror that has murdered our people for centuries. We have tried to stop it in the past but only lost more people. It’s a creature that was here before we were created, it likes the night and feeds on those who are alone in the dark. It craves the fear more than the flesh of a man. If you seek to kill it you will fail.” Hearing this Winston said nothing in return he just went back to the central part of town looking for a shotgun. There weren’t any general stores that sold weapons and not many people were willing to give up their guns. So he had to use what he had. Winston had two Colt Walkers, a Winchester Lever-Action rifle, and a knife. 

Winston went out to the woods and attempted to hunt the creature but thought it would be better to just wait for the ritual to start and kill it when it showed up.

The sheriff and the others started their ritual and Winston waited for the creature to show up. It took an hour for the ritual to take effect and the creature was seen at the far edge of the camp where the ritual was taking place. One of the members saw the creature and whispered something to it. Winston couldn’t figure out what it was told but he knew it probably wasn’t good. The creature jetted off from the site and went after the town. 

Winston followed it back to town, he cut it off just before it was close enough to the border of the town. They stared at each other for what felt like hours but it was merely seconds that had passed. Winston went for his Winchester and aimed straight at it. The creature lunged forward and knocked Winston to the ground, throwing his rifle to the side of him. The creature stood over him and Winston could see its face in the moonlight. It had pale features and was drooling black mucous. It had heavy and deep muscles and nothing but black in its eyes. Winston wasn’t able to see anything but evil in those eyes. Winston pulled his knife and jabbed at the side of the creature and it fell over in agony. It didn’t take long for it to get back up, just enough time for Winston to get to his knees. As he did so he could see the creature was coming back at him at a ferocious speed. His mind stopped for a second only for the thing to be right in his face when he snapped back to reality.

As it came Winston pulled his Colts and fired as quick as he could aiming at the creature’s face. He got four out of twelve shots to pierce this evil. The creature only slowed its pace and darted off from Winston. A chase ensued and Winston flew atop Murder to keep up with the creature’s pace. Murder ran as fast as he could. Winston loaded three more rounds hoping these would cause the creature to stumble. He fired three at the core of the creature and it flipped over itself. Winston stopped Murder and leaped down loading more rounds into the Colt in hurried emotion. He looked around for a second and noticed they were in the center of the town and this was a shock to the few people standing outside the saloon. Everyone outside just stared as this creature was wailed in agony. Winston knelt over the head and fired ten shots directly into the head. It died and it bled black mucous.

Winston dragged the creature to the edge of town and tied it to a tree and went back to find the people who were doing the ritual. He rode Murder all the back to where he last saw the group and there was no sign they were ever there. So Winston rode back looking for the sheriff and his office had been clean, as though they were hoping that after having built a sheriff’s office would come someday. 

He went to the place where he left the creature and it was still there, so he thought he should check the saloon and see if the sheriff was getting a drink trying to blend in. The bar was only full of the people he had seen standing outside. They were scared and drew their guns the moment he walked in. “Sorry, sir we thought that creature was coming in here.” Winston asked loudly if there was a sheriff that had come through the town earlier, everyone shook their heads no. Frustrated Winston went out to grab the creature and stow it on Murder, when he got to the spot he left it it was gone. It looked as though it was dragged away quickly. Now even more frustrated, Winston followed the trail. When he got to the end of it there was a cave. A deep black cave that Murder ran from after hearing some breathing coming from inside. Winston wanted his prize so bad he was willing to go in anyway.

Winston walked in with a lantern, on the walls were markings from some other tribe not of the Navajo. They depicted creatures similar to the one he just killed. It showed that they had huge amounts of them crawling around and that they only seem to send one or two out at a time. Winston assumed that whoever made these must have been studying them. He went farther into the cave and heard multiple things breathing, almost as if they were smelling out his position. He turned and shined a light towards the sounds and one of those creatures was standing right in front of him, he dropped the lantern and ran for the light at the opening of the cave. Just as he was about to cross into the light the creature grabbed his leg and dragged him into the cave. If someone were in earshot of that cave, they would have heard the worst, most terrifying screams in the world. 

In our world, we have things that creep into the imagination and into the real world. It is almost indecipherable which comes first. Inside the Upside Down, it’s even more of an enigma.

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